361 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne Victoria 3000
0416 726 830
I may have eaten my way through a fair share of Melbourne’s restaurants, cafes and bars but only a very few hold a special place in my heart for various non-food related reasons. One of them happens to be 1000 £ Bend, a warehouse-slash-garage-like structure tucked safely on Little Lonsdale Street that has an identity crisis of its own. It’s one of those places that isn’t sure whether it wants to be a bar or a cafe. It’s a place that’s not exactly situated on the coolest site in the city (it’s directly opposite a construction site for goodness knows what), but it’s a place that gives off a ‘welcome home’ vibe as soon as you set your Vanishing Elephant-clad foot into it. It’s a place where it’s swarmed with pretentious macbook-carrying hipsters who hog six-seater tables, but also a place where overseas students congregate on worn, moth-bitten couches and chat over bottles of Melbourne Bitter. And it’s a place that doesn’t give a frig if you’re a student, suit or a scruffy footy-loving bogan (though you might get the odd greasy if you rock up in a hoodie and North Melbourne scarf).
It’s a place that I’ve walked past many times on my way from work to the gym, but never thought about walking into. Then on one cool autumn evening, Marty’s last night in Melbourne actually, I grabbed him by the hand and decided that we were going to have drinks here. I can’t remember whether it was a coffee we had, a juice we shared or whether we decided on a bottle of Monteith’s Crushed Apple cider or their own branded St Jerome’s Caledonian lager. All I remembered was that this visit was to be one of many visits that I would have with Marty every time he came down, so much so that it became ‘our place.’
There was something about the ‘Bend that drew us in, and obviously others who have fallen in love with this place too. It could be their awesome coffees that sell like hotcakes every weekday between 8am and 10am, or just the fact that there’s always something different each night. Some nights, they’ll have a poet in residence, other nights they’ll have enticing specials ($8.50 burgers on Tuesday nights, yo!). Some nights you’ll walk into the ‘Bend, only to be greeted by ‘The Great Dictator’ starring Charlie Chaplin blaring from the projector. Regardless, I’d like to think that it’s a place that makes it easy for couples to fall in love in because the mood just calls for it. I mean, if it happened to me…
One night we saw a random Dutch backpacker who has connected his macbook to the projector so that his screen, including his YouTube browsing rampages, show up for all to see. Sadly, he did not dare look up redtube.com at ‘the Bend.
No matter what night (or day) you go, you’ll always be greeted by one of the dudes from The Black Keys. Or their look-alikes, at least.
The food’s also not too bad. One evening, Marty and I shared a warm mash potato cake topped with smoked salmon, a small herb and rocket salad, capers and aioli ($13.50). The ‘warm mash potato cake’ was essentially a thick potato cake, filled with mashed potato and coated in a crunchy batter. I would have preferred the potato cake to be hot and wondered why they couldn’t have served it piping hot, straight from the fryer. The cake was topped with a generous lashing of smoked salmon and the salad was anything BUT small. The plate was overrun by rocket leaves, baby spinach and cucumbers while a creamy aioli and capers tied the whole thing together. It was a strange dish, but it worked. Additionally, it went down a treat with the glasses of mulled wine that came served in recycled jam jars. Hot and spicy, with a tinge of citrus flavour, it was the perfect drink to beat the harsh Melbourne winter.
Although I think of the ‘Bend as a Libby and Marty place, I have taken other friends here. After Essendon suffered a humiliating loss against the Roos, I took a few of my fellow footy-loving friends here for an early dinner. While the others ordered pastas of various descriptors, I went for the roo burger ($12). Avid Roo supporter, Nick, made some comment about my meal being a celebration of the Roo win this afternoon but his comments fell on my deaf ears as I tucked into the massive tower of a burger which, mind you, took about 30 minutes to arrive despite a pretty quiet crowd. In that time, Nick also managed to order two coffees, too. But anyway, the burger was lovely. I’m not normally a fan of kangaroo meat as the smell puts me off but there was nothing fishy about this burger. A solid roo pattie sat hidden amongst layers of cheddar, sliced tomato, rocket leaves and onions, and holding it together was a lovely mix of sweet and tangy tomato relish and aioli. Yum. For some reason, I was expecting it to arrive with chips (it was $12, so can you blame me?) but was slightly disappointed when no chips came with my order. That said, I would pay $12 for that burger again.
I’ve yet to have breakfast here (it may be close to my work, but it doesn’t open before I’m due to be logged onto my desk which is a shame) but I’m sure their porridges and toasties will look as good as the random graffiti that line the toilet walls of this place, and taste as good as the feeling of falling in love with someone for the first time (lame, but true). With its excellent coffees, a selection of awesome tunes and more-than-decent food, the ‘Bend is a place that sums up the boho side of Melbourne. Eclectic, random, fun and a little bit wanky.